There are many ways to become well-known as a U.S. Senator. You can be a grinder, a workhorse who shuns soundbites on Sunday morning talk shows to busy yourself doing the dirty work of writing legislation. You can wrap yourself up in the business of providing support for the folks back in your home state. You can learn the rules of the Senate and take the time to build working relationships with both sides of the political aisle.
Or you can say, “screw that,” and become well-known for being a jerk. That’s where Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) comes in. With sharpened elbows and a nasty disposition guaranteed to annoy your allies and outrage your enemies. There is a reason freshman Senators are often treated like children underfoot. They either don’t know or don’t care what the protocols are of the Senate. Guys like Cruz prefer throwing a sharp elbow and being a royal pain in the ass.
Cruz is a Princeton debating champion, Harvard Law School graduate, law clerk to the late Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist and the former solicitor general of Texas. He’s not dumb. Just nasty. He just goes about things in dumb ways such as his slimy attack on Chuck Hagel during his confirmation hearings to become Secretary of Defense. “We do not know, for example, if he received compensation for giving paid speeches at extreme or radical groups,” Cruz told the Senate Armed Services Committee before it voted to approve Hagel’s nomination. “It is at a minimum relevant to know if that $200,000 that he deposited in his bank account came directly from Saudi Arabia, came directly from North Korea.”
That unsubstantiated slam against Hagel’s character earned Cruz a rebuke from John McCain. McCain ended up voting against his former Republican colleague, but shot down the junior senator from Texas when he said of Hagel, “no one on this committee should at any time impugn his character or his integrity.”
Cruz’s bare-knuckles approach doesn’t do much more than calling attention to how much of a jack-ass he is. We saw how much of mule’s patootie Cruz really is when he used a Senate Judiciary Committee meeting as an opportunity to lecture Diane Feinstein about the Constitution. What followed was a very public display of irritation with the upstart freshman.
“Would she consider it constitutional for Congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books and shall not apply to the books that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the Bill of Rights?” Cruz said, speaking to Feinstein.
“Likewise, would she think that the Fourth Amendment’s protection against searches and seizures, could properly apply only to the following specified individuals, and not to the individuals that Congress has deemed outside the protection of the law?”
Pointing her finger and glaring at Cruz, Feinstein shot back.
“One, I’m not a sixth grader,” Feinstein said. “Senator, I’ve been on this Committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in and I saw people shot with these weapons.
“I’m not a lawyer,” she added, “but after 20 years, I’ve been up close and personal with the Constitution. I have great respect for it. … So I, you know, it’s fine you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it. Just know I’ve been here for a long time.”
“I thank you for the lecture. Incidentally, this does not prohibit — you used the word ‘prohibit’ – it exempts 2,271 weapons. Isn’t that enough for the people of the United States? Do they need a bazooka? Do they need other high-powered weapons that other people use in close combat? I don’t think so.”
What a snot-nosed, swaggering rookie like Cruz probably doesn’t know is while he’s trying to score rhetorical points with the Fox and Friends crowd, Feinstein wasn’t just blowing smoke when it comes to having first-hand familiarity with gun violence. She could have lectured her caustic colleague of the bloody events that led to her becoming the mayor of San Francisco. Namely, the murders of Mayor George Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
Feinstein went on CNN and to explain her angry reaction to Cruz’s condescending remarks.
“Well, I just felt patronized,” Feinstein told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “I felt he was somewhat arrogant about it. When you come from where I’ve come from and what you’ve seen, when you found a dead body and put your finger in bullet holes, you really realize the impact of weapons. And then as you go up the technical ladder with these weapons, and they become more sophisticated, and more the product of a battlefield, and you’ve got these huge clips, or drums of 100 bullets out there that people can buy, when you see these weapons becoming attractive to grievance killers, people who take them into schools, into theaters, into malls, you wonder, does America really need these weapons? My answer to that is no. And so it’s based on my experience.”
None of this phases Cruz who seems to revel in starting new fires as soon as the previous ones are put out. There’s no chance a nervy punk like Cruz learns anything remotely resembling humility or even simple manners from Feinstein setting him straight. That would take a degree of class Cruz shows no signs of possessing.
That’s okay. There have always been terrible Senators like him and they usually find themselves isolated by their own rudeness, offensive ways and arrogant attitudes. Cruz isn’t even the biggest asshole from Texas serving in Congress. Not as long as Louie “Terror Babies” Gohmert is gibbering like a drunken hyena in the House.
As a senator, Cruz has six years to make a complete fool of himself. He should pace himself.